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Peak hour in Pyrmont: bike lanes for the bridge?

Sydney Morning Herald, 30 May 2012

Peak hour on Pyrmont Bridge, with rangers waving orange lights trying to control hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians rushing by, is a scene that could fit in a Monty Python sketch. That's the opinion of Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby, who believes there should be designated lanes on the busy thoroughfare to separate those on bikes and those on foot.

"The sensible solution is simply to put a green line down the middle.

"We've never been in favour of shared paths and we're going to fight them."

During a large police operation in March, 15 cyclists were fined each $59 for not wearing helmets, while 14 were fined for running red lights at the intersection near Murray Street, Pyrmont.

News of the operation sparked debate on about the behaviour of cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge and whether a separate bike lane would make crossing the bridge safer for both groups.

Three months on with no change, we asked authorities, residents, cyclists and pedestrians what they thought.

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, which is responsible for the bridge, said a bike lane was not the solution.

"While a dedicated zone or lane for bicycles may seem the obvious solution to the pedestrian/cyclist conflict, there is a high volume of pedestrian traffic on the bridge, many of them international and domestic tourists, who frequently cross from one side of the bridge to the other to enjoy views, sightsee and take photos," a spokeswoman said.

"It is envisaged that there would be a much greater risk of pedestrian and cycle conflict if dedicated lanes were to be installed.

"The bridge is a generous space that can accommodate all users in harmony, operating as a shared zone with a 10km/h speed limit."

A continuous voice message reminding users about the shared zone plays over a sound system during peak periods, backed up by signage put up in 2009, she said.

Nick Bonich, vice-president of BIKESydney, said a separate bike lane was "not a bad idea".

"A better idea is to keep working on behavioural change," he said.

Mr Bonich said cyclists should be encouraged to keep to safe speeds and safe distances, ensuring pedestrians are aware that they are sharing a space with cyclists, rather than always creating infrastructure.

There also needs to be greater democratisation of transport spaces, he said.

"In Sydney we don't share space well. People are reluctant to share [space] and get out of the way of each other."

He said if there was a bike lane on the bridge and the speed limit was increased, the speed of cyclists at exit and entry points might become an issue.

Mr Scruby said he was also concerned about pedestrians crossing the Anzac Bridge.

"Fifty to one people going into the city are pedestrians, yet it's more like 50-one spent on cyclists in Sydney."

Pyrmont resident Dianne Reece said the cyclists on Pyrmont Bridge "drive you crazy. You only have to step to the side and if they're behind you, they will run into you."

She said a bike lane down the middle of the bridge would be a good idea.

Another pedestrian, Liz, said there should be a dedicated bike lane on the bridge.

"Then cyclists have their own space and everyone is safe."

Police said they had continued targeting cyclists at the same intersection, as well as in the CBD, and had issued 95 infringement notices since the March operation.

A NSW Police spokesman said most of the tickets were given to riders without helmets or to those who ran red lights.

"It continues to be a focus for City Central Local Area Command," the spokesman said.

"They have noticed there's increasing compliance.

"It appears a lot are obeying the rules."

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